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Thread poster: Céline Graciet

Céline Graciet
Local time: 19:42
English to French
Jun 19, 2003

Hi all, I got an email this afternoon from a company asking me to do a tiny job for them (7 words, very easy) and would there be a charge. I gasped at such impudence and sent an email back quoting my minimum charge. They got back to me saying that they got their other languages for free and would I be willing to reconsider. I replied saying that I was a professional and only did free translations for non-profit organisations whose work I'm keen to help.

Now I really thought long and hard about this. First, it would have taken me two minutes at the most to do this job, and I'm not very busy. Second, I might have made a useful contact. However, I thought it was ridiculous that a business tried to avoid forking out the humongous sum of £25 and I thought it was quite disrespectful of our profession. So I said no, very politely.

I would really like to have your opinion on this issue and what you would have done in the same situation.

Thanks,

Céline


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
French to English
+ ...
It would depend on the business Jun 19, 2003

Normally, I don't do that kind of work for free - I mean, we all have to make a living, and I presume the company will be making some money out of the translation work (be it directly or indirectly as a result of the translation).

However, as you rightly mentioned, I do work for non-profit organisations - if time constraints allow - for free. I remember working inhouse for a company in California in September 2001 - when the events of the 11th took place, we offered to do the American Red Cross' translations for free -these were mostly short texts (in the region of 500 words each), and the majority of translators we approached did them free of charge - as I did with the French and Spanish ones.

So - to sum it all up - by all means, do work for free if you can fit it into your schedule and if you think the company to be a deserving one - but if not, don't feel bad about it!

Paul


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 20:42
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
Maybe not the wisest thing to do Jun 19, 2003

I've done many such real short translations for free without really expecting anything.

Last year, however, a two word translation (new company) turned into several + 1000 USD jobs afterwards...

Most companies do indeed forget about it later.
Then again, if you're not expecting anything, you will not be losing anything either.

But unless you know how a cow catches a rabbit, you should have considered helping them out.
After all, 7 words...
Unless you would have found fish bones in it...


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Els Hoefman  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:42
Member (2004)
English to Dutch
+ ...
You did the right thing Jun 19, 2003

I think you did the right thing. You're a professional and you have to make a living. Even if the job was only 7 words, it's a matter of principle!

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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:42
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
2 minutes' work... Jun 19, 2003

You might have considered it as a test translation - a pretty short one, in fact. I suppose you did not really expect them to pay over 3.5 pounds per word for something very easy that they might ask through KudoZ as well.
Updating a cv and sending it to an agency is more work (even if you do not have to do a test translation afterwards), and generally has much less impact.


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corinne durand  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:42
English to French
+ ...
On your gut feeling Jun 19, 2003

Hi Celine,
I understand your dilemma. I have experienced similar situations in the past, and I think I would have reacted exactly as you did, unless they are offering future job prospects, or hinting that they may happen (of course, there is no tangible way to check wether that will be the case either), and you feel they may be genuine. In my opinion, in this kind of situation, it all boils down to your gut feeling. If you don't know them, I do think it's a bit cheeky of a business (I am not talking about charities and non-profit) to request a free translation from someone they don't know, without offering anything in return! However, if there was a chance of getting further work, then I would try and find out more about them and maybe do it if they seem reputable.

Good luck anyway. And don't feel bad, you probably did the right thing!
Corinne

[Edited at 2003-06-19 16:20]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:42
English to German
+ ...
No problem - for a good customer Jun 19, 2003

Hi.
I believe I would have reacted in the same way - doing a handful of words for free is something I'm happy to do for good customers (=those who provide a constant stream of business at reasonable prices), but not as a means of acquiring business.

Best regards, Ralf


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Céline Graciet
Local time: 19:42
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
thanks! Jun 19, 2003

Nice to get feedback - I agree with Ralf, I have done free short translations for good clients and will do it again, but only because we have a good relationship. I would have also done it if they had said there was more work on the way, but they didn't. I just wanted to share a comparison that Angel sent me privately and that I thought was spot on. He said that 7 words isn't much, true enough, but then a baguette isn't much either, but I'm not going to ask my baker to give it to me for free. If she is in a good mood and feels like giving it to me, fine, but I've got no right to expect her to give it to me.

That sums it up for me, really.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 15:42
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
I did it once Jun 19, 2003

Hi Celine

I'm sorry that I see this topic just now.
It happened to me when I was starting as a translator. A big agency from GB needed the translation and localization for the Chilean market of an advertising slogan. In this translation I had to consider the logo and the presentation of the client, to make a good work. I said I was willing to do it for US$25.
They called me from London to explain that the client was a very good client and didn't want to pay for this because it was a very short job. They asked me to consider to do it for free, to send my resumé, and also that if I didn't want to, they would understand.
In my mind during all this conversation I was trying to imagine how much would cost that phone call from London. I accepted. I never heard a word from them.

[Edited at 2003-06-19 18:10]


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:42
French to English
Not easy! Jun 19, 2003

This isn't an easy issue. My decision would depend on who the client is, whether there is a possibility of more work in the future and my current workload.

As Evert said, a freebie turned into a few thousand dollars worth of work, so it might not be a bad way to spend 2 minutes!

I think I'd ask them about their translation needs to get a feel of any future possibilities. If I believed that more work could come my way, I'd certainly do a 7-word job for free. I'd make sure to put it on the invoice so they know they got a freebie.

On the other hand, if it's a client that repeatedly has small texts and asks for freebies, I wouldn't do it. That's where I'd draw the line.

HTH,

Erika


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Ursula Peter-Czichi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:42
German to English
+ ...
A good customer Jun 19, 2003

Ralf Lemster wrote:

Hi.
I believe I would have reacted in the same way - doing a handful of words for free is something I'm happy to do for good customers (=those who provide a constant stream of business at reasonable prices), but not as a means of acquiring business.

Best regards, Ralf



A few weeks ago, the German Consulate sent a person from an Arabic country. He spoke little English and less German even though he worked for a German company.
He needed a medical certificate translated into German, a really trifling job. I did it within a few minutes (he kept on saying: "Now! Airport!") and sent him on his merry way.
I hadn't charged him anything for the small job. He was young and the free enterprise system can surprise on first exposure.
He has become a very good customer and has been back several times, never expecting a charge.

There is a reward: I love his happy smile!


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Valeria Verona  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 15:42
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
agree Jun 20, 2003

Evert DELOOF-SYS wrote:


Then again, if you're not expecting anything, you will not be losing anything either.

But unless you know how a cow catches a rabbit, you should have considered helping them out.
After all, 7 words...



I agree with your view. The effort is insignificant and the return later on may be considerable... or not! But it's worth the risk.
Regards from Buenos Aires.
Valeria


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:12
English to Tamil
+ ...
There is no free lunch Jun 20, 2003

If I were you, I would have dictated the translation over phone and let them take it down or record the enire call for later transcription, provided of course there is some potential job coming from that client. In fact with my regular client there is an arrangement to charge him at the minimum rate and he in turn charges his end client. Worse trouble comes from relatives and friends, who corner you in a party and show some text. They say that they just want to know, what it says and I am expected to read it and summarize for their benefit in their language. I get around this problem by demanding a token sum payable in advance before they get my verbal translation. This attitude helps in avoiding freeloaders. And people respect you as a serious professional.

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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 20:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
it depends Jun 20, 2003

As others have said, I wouldn't do it for someone who had contacted me out of the blue. I think that's pretty brazen. On the other hand, I would do it for a good client. One small agency that I do a lot of work for occasionally contacts me with a "help!" message (I remember one time when another translator had unwittingly left out a sentence in a patent translation and had gone on vacation before the omission was discovered). I never charge for the odd sentence or two in such cases.

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